Giving a Pass to Corporate Polluters

Michael Kourabas
| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

1383478361_260969c3f6_zHas there ever been a better time to be a corporation?  I doubt it.  Corporations might disagree, and we’re all familiar with corporate lamentations regarding the increasingly challenging web of federal regulations (Dodd-Frank; the FCPA) they supposedly struggle to navigate.  Yet, it’s hard to dispute that these are good times for big business, and “Exhibit A” could easily be the utter dearth of criminal prosecutions for corporations that are guilty of pollution.

Funding Woes.  According to a recent study published by the Crime Report (TCR), criminal prosecutions of corporate polluters are becoming less and less common by the day.  One explanation for this phenomenon is the dwindling funding allotted to the government entity responsible for the protecting the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In case you missed it, Congress has made a recent habit of slashing EPA funding.  (Yes, this is the same do nothing Congress that is currently contemplating spending American tax dollars on a lawsuit against the President.)  Unsurprisingly, these cuts have come primarily at the hands of Congressional Republicans, whose most recent transgression has been the approval of a 9 percent decrease in EPA funding, but President Obama has done some damage as well (the President’s proposed 2015 budgetlowered EPA funding by some $300 million).  And this is not just a 2014 trend.  As Congressional Republicans boasted when the federal government nearly imploded (again) in January, they have successfully cut the EPA’s funding by 20 percent since 2010.

One result of these money troubles is a serious lack of manpower.  For instance, the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section is equipped with just 38 prosecutors, and the EPA’s Environmental Crimes Section has just 200 agents.  These are the folks who are given primary responsibility for monitoring environmental violations across the country.  Yet, with such a pitifully understaffed roster, the federal government’s capacity to pursue America’s worst environmental offenders is seriously hampered.

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No Tesla Charging Stations? Chinese Business Man Builds His Own

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday July 21st, 2014 | 2 Comments

tesla_chinaYou bought that spiffy new all-electric Tesla Model S, so why not build the charging stations to go along with it?

This is what Chinese businessman Yi Zong decided to do after he purchased his Tesla earlier this year. He realized that charging his vehicle would be a problem in China because, well, there are few stations in that country. Zong installed recharging facilities on his own dime, or yuan as the case may be, in 16 cities between Beijing and his home in Guangzhou — a 3,573-mile corridor.

Zong, one of the first Chinese owners of the Model S, calls his project the country’s “first electric-charging road,” according to a report at Caixin Online, a Beijing-based media group.

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Maryland Offshore Wind Auction Date Set, New Jersey Auction Proposed

| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment

denmarkoffshorewindfarmkayakNews of further follow-through on President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan broke over the course of the past two weeks: The Department of Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced plans to auction nearly 80,000 acres of Atlantic Ocean waters off the coast of Maryland and proposed leasing another 344,000 acres off the New Jersey coast for offshore wind energy development.

BOEM has awarded five commercial offshore wind energy leases off the Atlantic Coast so far, part and parcel of the Obama administration’s Smart from the Start sustainable offshore wind energy development program. Collectively, these span more than 277,500 acres and have brought in over $5 million in high-bids for the U.S. Treasury.

Researchers at Stanford University have determined that Atlantic offshore winds could yield enough renewable electricity to power at least one-third of the entire U.S., or the entire East Coast from Maine to Florida. The challenges associated with turning this promise into reality are numerous and varied, however.

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Kroger Cuts Energy Use By 35 Percent, Ramps Up Sustainability Efforts

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday July 21st, 2014 | 0 Comments

KrogerThe Kroger Co. has reduced energy use in its stores by 34.6 percent since 2000, saving more than 2.5 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). That’s enough electricity to power every home in Charlotte, North Carolina for a year — or the equivalent of taking 362,000 cars off the road for a year. The largest supermarket chain in the U.S. and fifth-largest retailer in the world, Kroger recently published its eighth annual sustainability report, which includes its energy usage reduction efforts.

Kroger’s manufacturing plants also continue to reduce their use of electricity and gas. As of this year’s report, they have saved enough energy to power 8,411 American homes for a year, and cut enough gas to power 442,446 American homes for a year.

Its manufacturing plants are also reducing water use: In 2013, Kroger manufacturing plants reduced water use by 61 million gallons of water. That is equivalent to the annual water use of 1,455 American homes. Additionally, water use at stores in four of its western divisions was reduced by 7.6 percent last year. These figures crushed an initial 5 percent company-wide reduction target for 2014.

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3p Weekend: 5 Cities Already Feeling the Effects of Climate Change

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 19 Comments
A local man paddles past submerged cars on South Beach in Miami in 2009. Locals say the rising tides are only getting worse.

A local man paddles past submerged cars on South Beach in Miami in 2009. Locals say the rising tides are only getting worse.

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

While some still view climate change as some distant or unidentifiable threat (and others simply argue its effects “won’t be so bad”), the impacts of rising tides and surging temperatures are already changing lives around the world. From South Florida to the Pacific Islands, this list represents thousands of lives that are forever altered by the warming climate — and a threat to millions more unless something changes quickly.

1. Miami, Florida, United States

“Climate change is no longer viewed as a future threat round here,” atmosphere expert Professor Ben Kirtman, of the University of Miami, told the Guardian in a recent interview. “It is something that we are having to deal with today.”

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Smartphones Are Everywhere … But Where Are the Standards?

| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments

electronics cord_thinkstockThe electronics industry has become the de facto face of innovation in the post- WWII era.

When it comes to sustainability in the electronics industry, much attention is being paid to e-waste and energy efficiency. However, there is much more to making a sustainable smart product in the 21st century. That’s why UL – Underwriters Laboratories – through UL Environment developed the UL 110 standard for mobile phones, tablets and other “smart” products.

The UL ISR 110 standard is points-based and devices that receive the certification must:

  • contain environmentally preferable materials;
  • be manufactured using environmentally and socially responsible practices;
  • be recyclable at end-of-life;
  • make use of recycled and recyclable packaging;
  • have minimal environmental impact;
  • have minimal human health risks;
  • perform efficiently; and
  • demonstrate innovation in sustainable manufacturing.

Mobile devices create a unique challenge from a sustainability certification perspective. They are complex pieces of equipment, contain metals that may have come from conflict regions and chemicals that may be harmful to human health; they are also difficult to recycle given the high number of components they include, and at the end of the day, each one only gets used for an average of 18 months.

Yet, creating a greener product can provide a competitive advantage, as Scot Case, UL Environment director of markets development, explained in a 3p interview.

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New Carbon Capture Plant Will Use Coal Exhaust to Get Oil From the Ground

RP Siegel | Friday July 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

NRG_cleaner_coalWill we ever be able to get all of our energy from renewable sources? There is certainly enough supply available. Enough sunlight hits the Earth every hour to power the entire human world for a year. But right now, it would take a 310,000-square-mile solar farm (about twice the size of Oregon), or 6 million wind turbines to capture enough sunshine or wind to provide all of the world’s electrical power.

If that sounds like a lot, it is– which is why we will continue to use a mix of sources including natural gas and coal to meet our electrical demand for some time to come. The renewable numbers will continue to shrink as long as the technology and our efficiency improves faster than the population grows. In the mean time, coal, despite being the dirtiest fuel available, is still abundant and still produces 30 percent of the world’s energy. In 2012, the U.S. used coal to produce 43 percent of our electricity, while in China coal produced 81 percent. In other places, like South Africa, it contributed over 90 percent.

While there are a number of problems associated with burning coal, the biggest is the amount of carbon dioxide it produces: Coal combustion generates anywhere between 200 and 230 pounds of CO2 for every million BTUs of heat produced. That is roughly twice the amount emitted by natural gas.

The new EPA Clean Power Plant rule will put pressure on utilities to either clean up their coal plants or switch to a cleaner fuel. Many are already switching to natural gas, but another approach that has been talked about for a long time, carbon sequestration, is finally getting a chance to demonstrate its capabilities in a full-scale commercial operation.

Just this week, NRG announced the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture power generation plant. The project will be a joint venture between NRG’s wholly-owned subsidiary Petra Nova Holdings, and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp.

According to the press release, this commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) system will utilize existing technology to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the processed flue gas from an existing coal plant in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston. Construction on the project has already begun.

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Nestlé Hides Behind ‘Sovereign Nation’ in Desert Bottled Water Controversy

Leon Kaye | Friday July 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments
Nestle, bottled water, Arrowhead, Cabazon, shared value, Leon Kaye, Coachella Valley, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, public relations

The Coachella Valley has much wind, but little water.

Nestlé yet again finds itself in another bottled water controversy.

One of the great marketing scams of the past generation, bottled water has been a financial windfall for Nestlé and many other food and beverage companies. Despite most of the U.S. having one of the safest drinking water infrastructures on the globe, bottling companies have made a mint convincing consumers they need bottled water. Never mind the excessive cost, the plastic waste and fuel wasted hauling heavy crates of water across the country — these companies and trade associations disingenuously position bottled water as a “consumer choice,” and a fight against obesity.

The controversy continues in the California desert. The state, along with much of the country, has endured one of its worst droughts on record. Residents can now be fined up to $500 for excessive watering as spit-spats between farming, fishing, business and environmental interests fester. One company, however, has been bottling water for several years in one of the driest parts of the state, the Coachella Valley.

Nestlé, which sells the most bottled water in the U.S., is attracting more attention for bottling water in a region suffering from depleted groundwater. Maybe it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to how else water is wasted in the region. Perhaps Arrowhead-branded bottles of water are significantly contributing to lower aquifer levels.

But we don’t really know because since 2009 Nestlé has refused to disclose how much water it is pumping.

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GE Launches $1 Million Competition to Reduce Emissions in Canada’s Oil Sands

Sherrell Dorsey
| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

canada oil sands, zero emissions, energy productionThe race for big oil companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions is fierce. As zero-emissions solutions from renewable energies and technologies begin to set new expectations for energy production, oil companies are being called to accelerate their environmental efficiencies and, more importantly, compete with foreign oil distributors.

In order to snuff out the competition, Canadian producers are turning to innovative solutions to spur local collaboration and invest in advanced technologies to increase environmental performance and reduce emissions.

Earlier this month, General Electric announced the launch of its GE GHG Ecomagination Innovation Challenge: Energy Efficiency Solutions for Canada’s Oil Sands. The competition aims to provide CAD$1 million to the best global minds to help develop solutions that can be scaled and commercialized within the industry.

More specifically, the challenge calls for proposals that will identify new uses for waste heat and improved efficiency of steam generation.

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California, Massachusetts Top U.S. Clean Tech Rankings

| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

CleanEdgeRptCvrCalifornia, Massachusetts and Oregon topped the ranking of U.S. states in terms of clean tech leadership, while three California cities – San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego – came out tops among U.S. metro areas, according to the latest edition of Clean Edge’s “2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index.”

Monitoring clean tech activities and conditions across all 50 U.S. states and the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, Clean Edge found that the improved performance and lower costs of clean technologies are prompting U.S. states and metro areas to tackle climate change head on.

“Climate disruption and the growing availability of market-competitive clean-energy technologies are driving many states and cities to tackle climate issues head-on,” Clean Edge founder and managing director Ron Pernick said in a news release.

“More than ever, this year’s Leadership Index highlights how some top regions are taking climate action seriously, with double-digit clean-energy adoption rates, new policies like California’s energy-storage mandate, and the deployment of clean-energy investment vehicles such as New York’s Green Bank.”

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Coca-Cola’s Last Mile: From Fizzy Drinks to Medical Supplies

Leon Kaye | Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Coca Cola, Project last mile, health care, Tanzania, Leon Kaye, last mile, rural africa

Project Last Mile helps deliver medical supplies to clinics in Tanzania.

Coca-Cola as a medical supplies deliverer? One of its community programs, Project Last Mile, at first sounds odd as the company is one of the world’s most recognized brands, with its red and white logos emblazoned everywhere from mega-city centers to the tiniest rural outposts. Coke’s 100+ year history of prominence is as impressive as it is exasperating to its critics. And its reputation and stature in the marketplace allow it to attract some of the best talent.

But some of that talent wants more than a line on a CV to complement that MBA diploma. More employees, especially newer ones joining the workforce, want to work for an organization that takes sustainability and social responsibility seriously.

To that end, Project Last Mile leverages the company’s vast distribution network to increase and improve the delivery of medical supplies to 10 African countries by 2019.

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Millennials and the State of Employee Engagement

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 3 Comments
The WeSpire team talks employee engagement at the organization's active booth at the 2014 Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego.

Susan Hunt Stevens (center) and the WeSpire team talk employee engagement at the organization’s active booth at the 2014 Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego.

Employee engagement has been a hot topic in the sustainability space this year — and for good reason. Attracting, engaging and retaining top talent has caught up to — if not surpassed — motives like cost savings as the driving factor influencing companies to embrace sustainability goals.

To put it simply: More and more employees are asking companies about their sustainability programs, and, even in a sluggish economy, some may be hesitant to work for a company that hasn’t identified sustainability as a priority.

While the pressure is coming from all angles, research shows the younger generation is leading the charge: A recent PwC study found that more than half of recent college graduates are seeking a company that has corporate social responsibility (CSR) values that align with their own, and 56 percent would consider leaving a company that didn’t have the values they expected.

Building on this research, cloud-based engagement platform WeSpire (formerly known as Practically Green) recently released the results of a five-year research study that shows the influence millennials have in organizations stepping up their employee engagement action.

The findings are intriguing: In response to employee demand, particularly from millennials, a growing number of employers are adopting an official engagement policy on sustainability. This upward trend was especially pronounced from 2011 to 2014, where the prevalence of an official employee sustainability engagement policy nearly doubled: from 17 percent in 2011 to 30 percent in 2014.

“People are realizing that these are not ‘nice-to-have’ programs,” Susan Hunt Stevens, founder and CEO of WeSpire, told Triple Pundit. “They drive the bottom line and the top line of business.”

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PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi Weighs In on Work/Life Balance

| Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi

David Bradley, owner of The Atlantic, recently interviewed PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and she gave some frank answers to his questions about ‘having it all’ that coincide more with Anne-Marie Slaughter than Sheryl Sandberg. As in, work/life balance? At the c-suite level, there isn’t any. “You know, stay-at-home mothering was a full-time job. Being a CEO for a company is three full-time jobs rolled into one. How can you do justice to all? You can’t,” Nooyi said.

Interestingly, Anne-Marie Slaughter herself was in the audience at the time, and Nooyi said she was a big fan of her Atlantic piece, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. In it, Slaughter talks about her decision to pull back from a high-powered career in Washington, D.C. to return to Princeton University to teach and spend more time with her family. Slaughter believes that it isn’t a lack of ambition that holds women back, but a lack of workplace policies that could make work more balanced for everyone, not just employees with children.

Nooyi sums up the conflicts that so many women are facing today.

…The biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict. When you have to have kids you have to build your career. Just as you’re rising to middle management your kids need you because they’re teenagers, they need you for the teenage years. And that’s the time your husband becomes a teenager too, so he needs you (laughing). They need you too. What do you do? And as you grow even more, your parents need you because they’re aging. So we’re screwed. We have no… we cannot have it all.

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Southwest Airlines Upcycles 43 Acres of Plane Interior

Sherrell Dorsey
| Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments

southwest airlines, upcycling, luv seatAs airline companies compete to be the No. 1 customer choice for flying the skies, the adoption of environmental responsibility standards is becoming much more prevalent.

From curbing water usage, to better management of air traffic systems, to encouraging passengers to share a can of soda (and you thought they were just being cheap), the breadth of initiatives companies are trying out to reduce their footprint elicits greater accountability within the $708 billion dollar airlines industry.

The latest company coming to the table with rather unique plans to help cut the nearly 2 percent global carbon emissions rates produced by the aviation industry is none other than Southwest Airlines. Having cracked the top 100 in Newsweek’s annual green company rankings this year, Southwest is demonstratively making good on its commitment to pursue triple-bottom-line growth in the name of environmental stewardship and global citizenship.

Through its Evolve campaign, Southwest designed a large-scale retrofit of its entire fleet to enhance customer comfort and improve overall fuel efficiency. Approximately 80,000 leather seat covers were replaced with durable and environmentally-responsible materials that lighten the load of the plane by a whopping 600 pounds — a number that the company reports will translate into significant fuel savings and subsequent carbon emissions.

In a recent interview with Triple Pundit, Marilee McInnis, senior manager of culture and communications for Southwest, said the airline is seeking opportunities to source new materials, overhaul its fleet, and reduce consumption and fuel costs in the process.

Repurpose with purpose

Once the leather was out and the eco-materials were in, Southwest still had one problem to address: Where to send all of those leather seats — 43 acres of material in total — if landfill is not an option.

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Tragedy of the Commons: Once Upon a … Water

3p Contributor | Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 3 Comments

7325576614_2f9faba3c7_zBy Meghna Tare

Not a day goes by without coming across an article or blog on water scarcity. We have reached a tipping point where we need to monetize and assign a dollar value to a natural resource like water — without which we cannot survive. We live on the water planet: 75 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water. Yet fresh water is scarce. Aristotle and other philosophers were right on the mark when they said, “What is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it!”

Laws of physics dictate that water cannot simply vanish from the earth. But the water scarcity problem is global and serious. Without introducing the impact of climate change on the water resource, the water scarcity problem influenced by the increasing population and fears of food security is dominating the policy- and decision-maker’s agenda. Even after investing some $400 billion in water supply over the past century, the United States, with so much innovation and technology at its feet, faces a shortage that has no easy remedy. The Golden state and Lone Star states are forced to acknowledge this issue in the face of the existing drought.

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